So I originally read this article a couple of weeks ago now and it was just one of a steady stream of articles I’ve come across recently that apply a hipster-level judgement to anyone participating in the year 2014. There’s your usual all purpose stop-using-the-internet message shared via internet, there’s this one commanding me to totes stop saying totes based entirely on my birthdate, there is just your general selfie hatred, and there’s that one I linked above condemning the newly christened “shelfie”. Here’s how they describe what a shelfie is: “It’s about gathering up ~significant~ objects and creating something that’s you.” What is this world coming to? Now people are creating still life shots that represent parts of their personalities or interests? Nooooooooo! *collapses dramatically from grief for the entirety of humanity*
Hey, judgey people? Don’t tell me what I can’t do. I mean. I make it a general life goal to never have anything in common with John Locke (from Lost, not the philosopher) (although maybe him, too) but in this case I can’t help myself. You say I can’t instagram my breakfast and suddenly I want to show you my same bowl of yogurt and granola every single morning.
But on a more cerebral level, every single one of these things is legitimately an interesting and relevant part of this world that I don’t want to lose.
I took part in the 7 Days project where we would meet quarterly for a week of self portraiture. It was fun, it was silly, and it was vitally important to my personal growth. Taking selfies taught me a lot about photography and I made new lifelong friends via the project. But the lessons I learned about myself were perhaps the most surprising aspect of what selfies are. Self portraiture taught me to see myself in a new way, it taught me to be photographed, it taught me to see beauty in a new manner entirely, and how to find it within myself. While I’m sure that there are people out there who
take too many selfies take more selfies than you personally think they should, they may be learning these things, too. And these are good and important things to learn. You should try it.
But now there is this thing called “shelfies” which internet haters are hating on. And I just don’t get it. Like. Have you never been to a museum? Because like 90% of that is still life (percentages not verified by any source whatsoever) and I guarantee you those are nearly all staged. Do you think Edward Weston just happened across that sexy bell pepper out in the wild and grabbed a quick shot? Cause you’d be wrong. He staged it. And no one (except haters) talked shit about him taking pictures of bell peppers. Instead they put that shit in a book and called it art and now students have to study how awesome it is when they take beginning photography classes. It’s like when people say that fan fiction is “standing on the shoulders of giants”. Cause, in case you hadn’t noticed, much of literature is comprised of retellings or at the very least, allusions to older stories. Taking away the freedom to create the art that is inside us – in whatever form it comes in – is controlling and dampening and caging and wrong.
Language is constantly evolving. That’s what’s so awesome about language. You can post as many funny little images about how “irregardless” won’t ever be a word no matter how many times it’s used, but you could not literally be more wrong. (And I use that “literally” literally here.) If people use it, it’s a word. Period. That’s how words are born. That’s how words evolve. Admittedly, I enjoy the evolution of the world “literally” more than I enjoy the evolution of the word “irregardless” but I don’t deny that it exists as a word. There is a word that I picked up from some SNL character and it makes me giggle and I can feel it bubbling up from inside me, trying to become a permanent part of my vocabulary and I can’t hold it back much longer. So be prepared. I’m gonna start saying “tragesty”. (Admittedly, the frustrating part of evolving language is the autocorrect lag. No I do not mean travesty, Autocorrect.) But the point is that I am 36 and I can say “totes” or “adorbs” or “I’ll cut a bitch” and especially “feels” all I want. Because language is amazing. And I love watching it evolve. And I want to be a part of that. Finding new ways to communicate things is not a bad thing. It’s exciting! It is, in fact, totes exciting. And it gives me feels. So there. (See? Stubborn.)
In my creative writing class we had to do an exercise where we formulated a very short play. One person (whose writing I’ve always liked) wrote a scene between a grandfather and his grandson about how we should put down the phone and live life. And, sure. Sometimes we should. But I really wanted the grandson in this play to point out all the ways that technology is important to humanity, too. This slam poem has been making the rounds recently and I’ve tried to watch it on more than one occasion because I feel like it’s only fair if I give it a shot, but I can’t even get through it. I tried but my eyes rolled so far out of my head that I literally had to go to the ER (see: evolution of language). Again, I’m sure that there are times when this is advice that needs to be given. Sometimes people do get caught up in their technology and forget to pay enough attention to the world around them, myself included. But never forget how much that technology does to connect us. I am so different because of the internet. I’ve made friends who’ve taught me things, and taught me kindness, and taught me how to find out who I really am. Without those virtual connections I’d still be lost and scared and vastly more ignorant. Do not ever discount the importance of social media. Internet friends are still real friends.
But, even aside from all this, don’t judge people because judging people is shitty. End of story. You can try to open your mind and learn new things from the people you meet online, or from recently evolved language, or from selfies and shelfies – and I cannot recommend it enough! But even if you never do any of that, just don’t judge people. It doesn’t make them look worse, it only reflects on you. And, besides, as my friend Jen said in response to that Jezebel article, nothing will ever make me quit the internet.